Adolescents and antidepressants: Weighing the risks of treatment for mental illness

Infographic by Alyssa Wallace

60 percent of children with depression are not receiving treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Antidepressants are a viable solution to treat depression, but parents are reluctant to allow their children to use them.

Without the use of antidepressants, children with depression will continue to suffer from life-altering symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia or self-esteem issues. If this is the case, parents should give their children the medication they need.

The FDA conducted clinical trials of antidepressants that found individuals 24 years or younger may experience increased symptoms of depression, including increased suicidal thinking and behavior, according to the Mayo Clinic. Because of this, manufacturers of antidepressants are required to print warnings about the potential link to suicidal behavior on their products.

Antidepressants may also have paradoxical reactions for other symptoms of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, antidepressants can cause increased anxiety, hostility, agitation and restlessness, among other symptoms.

However, these side effects were only reported by four percent of those taking the antidepressants, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. To put those numbers into perspective, 20 percent of people who take antibiotics experience side effects, according to Johns Hopkins University, and around 50 percent of people who take ibuprofen have side effects, according to

In comparison to other medications, antidepressants rarely cause side effects. If that is true, then children should be allowed to take them to lessen their symptoms of depression.

But what is the point of taking antidepressants if they worsen one’s depression? Children and their parents shouldn’t have to take that risk without having a plan in case the medication doesn’t work out.

Thankfully, these symptoms rarely happen after the first two months of taking the medication, as long as the amount taken stays consistent. And, the danger of the medication during those first two months can be quelled, if the proper procedures are followed.

If children are monitored while on the antidepressants, their side effects can be prevented from getting out of control. This could be done through regular therapy sessions and close supervision of the children by their parents.

Parents and therapists would have to pay close attention to how the child is acting, in order to perceive behavioral changes in children. Through this course of action, a child’s increased thoughts of suicide could be recognized, and they could be taken off of the medication before their symptoms progressed any further.

This system would allow those who don’t experience side effects the opportunity to get the medicine they need, while the four percent who do experience side effects aren’t dangerously overexposed to the medicine.

If children are suffering from symptoms of depression, they shouldn’t be prohibited from using the medicine that would help them just because there is a four percent chance their symptoms could increase temporarily.


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